Diva’s delight in helping the community

Erika and CoCo Flash are two divalicious drag queens. Taranaki Community News caught up with them to find out what makes them so fabulous, and what their favourite gig – Rainbow Storytime – is all about.

Darlings, can you tell us a bit about your fabulous selves?
We are the Kardashian’s of Taranaki, but with more sass, better hair and and whole lot less annoying.

Opposites really do attract for us sister-girls. The back and forth between us can be electrifying and no one is safe if you try to step to us. We fabulousity to Taranaki one stiletto heel step at a time.

Erika and CoCo Flash

Erika is the 7ft+ blonde with legs that do not stop. She’s into high fashion couture and the hair needs to be high enough to touch Jesus. CoCo is the disco queen under an abundance of sequins and glitter, and she’s got the moves and grooves and will battle anyone on the d-floor till the death.

We represent the Haus of Flash, the only drag house in Taranaki. We love to bring our down to earth, laid-back ‘Naki style to the cities we visit while getting involved with the community, interacting with the people and promoting our amazing region.

We met one a Summer’s day at BP Powderham after having a craving for Orange Mocha Frappuccinos. Since then, we have Shontayed, stayed together just like Ike and Tina Turner… hold up, bad reference, more like… Destiny’s Child, and we intend to have as much longevity as our goddess, Cher.

If you queens were on RuPaul’s Drag Race, what would you be known for?  
COCO ON ERIKA:  Erika is the look – the long legs, the big hair, the makeup, the curves and the exquisite gowns. She does it all herself too, sewing her own gowns, styling her own hair and creating an immaculate aesthetic. She would definitely be the one to watch because she’ll pounce at the right time once she has absorbed all she needs to know about everyone else… all while making everyone gag on her runways. She may be considered a “young” queen but she honestly is the full package and embraces the old school drag.

ERIKA ON COCO:  CoCo is the dancing and lip sync queen. Her performances are sickening and no one would ever want to come up against her in a battle. She’s a diva and you wouldn’t want the library open for her to read you because she will go BAM! Also she’s really old so she’s got plenty of experience behind her and used to insulting those meddling kids that keep walking on her lawn.

COCO TO ERIKA: The one time I was actually nice about you!
ERIKA TO COCO: *clicks her fingers in a Z formation*

CoCo and Erika Flash

You’re stranded on a desert island and you can only take three things. What are they?   
Hair spray, contour, and eyelash glue, because without those we are nothing. And God forbid when they run out – we’d look like those albino manatees, well Erika would!

You’ve been busy doing Rainbow Storytime sessions. What are they? Rainbow Storytime is one of our most favourite regular gigs!

They’re 60 minute sessions where kids and parents come along and we teach them some funky dance moves, play some games to get their imagination working and read a selection of books. The books always have a message about accepting people who may seem different, accepting ourselves if we don’t fit into regular boxes, anti-bullying, inclusiveness and love in general.

We absolutely adore what we do, the kids think we are just amazing and we even have our regular fans who follow us to most sessions we have. Some kids even dress up for us.

Erika and CoCo Flash

Why are these Rainbow Storytime sessions important?
We just want all kids to feel like whatever they want to do is OK. At first people might go “whoa!” – but that’s a normal human reaction and they soon realise the way you dress and how you look has no standing on the person you are inside.

Sometimes we make a hasty exit to make sure our mascara doesn’t run if we get an exceptional story about how we have inspired someone or a parent thanks us for helping their child and family with understanding being a bit eccentric.

The first first sessions we did we weren’t too sure what to expect in regards to reaction. At the start we were struggling to get a high-five from the kids, but once we were finished we had kids hugging us and telling us how beautiful we are and asking if we could go to their birthday parties and come meet their families. 

We have one young boy who is about 5 years old, and he has been adopted into our drag haus and his drag name is Rose Pickles-Flash. He came up with his name, picks out his favourite dresses, and his mum has been learning to do his makeup. He has so many drag aunties with all the queens in Auckland falling in love with him when they were down in Taranaki last time.

Having a supportive, accepting family has made all the difference to this boy and knowing that he has ongoing support from all of us means that he will always have someone to turn to if things get rough, and that’s what we are here for.

Our youth suicide rate is astonishing, and many of these kids may have been bullied for being different and maybe felt like they were not normal, and maybe that internal monologue gave them no option? We put ourselves out there to attract the weirdos and eccentrics because that’s what we are, and rather than being ashamed of it, run with it and you can actually make it into something and be a role model too.

Erika Flash at a Rainbow Storytime event.

What else has Rainbow Storytime led onto?
We’ve also moved into doing teen adult sessions, these are more Q&A-style sessions where people can feel safe and comfortable asking us questions about the drag and LGBT+ culture.

It’s especially vital here in Taranaki, as some people have never seen a drag queen in the flesh, so it’s quite exciting. People want to know how they address them – and then it can go deeper into asking about our upbringings, how we fit into society as people and the difference between our drag personas and our muggle lives as “boys”.

Its all about education. We don’t get offended easily and we want people to be curious and inquisitive, because that means they are willing to learn and be open and that’s everything to us.

Some families may not know how to react to their child or maybe they’re not sure how to support them properly. Are they gay or just a bit out there? Will he grow out of it? Where can I find the best wigs and heels? Is my daughter a tomboy or trans? We can’t answer all of these questions but we can educate and try to give some insight and direct them to services that are available for professional advice and support.

We are now not only doing Rainbow Storytime sessions in Taranaki, but all over New Zealand. We were also finalists in the recent NZ LGBTI Awards for 2018, which was such a humbling experience to know that members of the public nominated us and appreciate what we do out there. 

CoCo and Erika Flash with RuPaul’s Drag Race star Miz Cracker.

Where to from here for you fabulous queens and for Rainbow Storytime?
We want to grow the concept and do more and more of it, because we feel it is such a vital resource for the community – particularly in Taranaki where there hasn’t been a great deal of exposure to this sort of thing.

Flash Mob Entertainment has been bringing drag culture to Taranaki for a few years now with FIERCE Drag Cabaret and Burlesque! and its been fantastic seeing the public embrace these shows. However, we want more than that – we want safety, we want acceptance and we want it to become mainstream, like in Auckland. Men make positive comments towards drag queens because its so normal on K Road and they aren’t afraid to say someone looks beautiful even if it is a man dressed in drag.

It is far more masculine to appreciate beauty and ask for a photo with us than it is to yell obscenities. We notice a huge difference between the bigger cities and New Plymouth, but as we get out there more, we find people do get more accepting and used to us. 

We want all members of the community to feel like they can be out in public and not hide away, whether they are into drag or are trans. How people dress and the person they feel most comfortable being and who they choose to love has no bearing on the human they are. 

I guess Erika can be quite intimidating being a gargantuan Amazon woman but we will never turn down a photo opportunity and chat with people who take the time to get to know us.

We’ve had some of the most deep and meaningful conversations with people when we are on a night out in drag!

You can find Erika and CoCo Flash on Facebook and Instagram. You can also follow Rainbow Storytime Taranaki on Facebook.